Photo courtesy of New York Daily News/Bryan Pace
Oscar Morel, shown here following his arrest in August of 2016, was convicted on March 23 of first-degree murder for executing an Ozone Park imam and an associate.

The Brooklyn man convicted of fatally shooting an Ozone Park imam and an associate nearly two years ago will spend the rest of his life in prison, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced on Wednesday.

Oscar Morel, 37, was convicted in March of first- and second-degree murder as well as second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. On June 6, Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak ordered Morel to a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole.

Brown said that Morel “showed not an ounce of sympathy or respect for human life when he gunned down” Imam Maulana Akonjee, 64, and his friend Thara Uddin, 55, in August of 2016 as they walked home from prayers at a nearby mosque.

“The cowardly actions of this defendant did not just take the life of two admired men, but the killings ripped at the heart of the Muslim community — our community,” Brown said on Wednesday. “It is my hope that today’s conclusion to this case brings some closure and comfort to the many family and friends of the victims.”

To this day, detectives have yet to determine the motive behind the execution. During sentencing, when Judge Lasak asked Morel why he did it, a source familiar with the case said, Morel avoided answering it directly, but claimed that he was innocent.

Law enforcement sources said Akonjee and Uddin had just left the Al-furqan Jame Masjid Mosque and were walking home in the area of Liberty Avenue and 79th Street at about 2 p.m. on Aug. 13, 2016, when Morel approached them from behind.

Prosecutors said Morel pointed a .38-caliber revolver at their heads, fired several shots and ran from the scene. Akonjee was shot four times in the head and body, while Uddin sustained a gunshot wound to his head.

Officers from the 106th Precinct and EMS units rushed to the scene. Paramedics brought Akonjee and Uddin to a local hospital, where they died of their injuries.

During the investigation, police obtained video camera footage that showed Morel getting out of and back into a black SUV near the intersection at the time of the shooting.

They further learned that, about 12 minutes after that footage was filmed, Morel’s SUV struck a bicyclist at the corner of Pitkin and Pine Avenues in East New York, Brooklyn. Brown said that a good Samaritan who saw the incident followed Morel in his own vehicle, obtained the license number and provided it to police.

Police later located the SUV and staked it out; they apprehended Morel the following evening as he attempted to enter the vehicle.

“Detectives from the Fugitive Task Force Unit approached the car, and then he rammed the detectives’ car several times in an effort to get away,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said after Morel’s arrest. “He was placed under arrest without any further incident and brought back to the precinct for more debriefing.”

During a search of Morel’s home, prosecutors said, cops found the .38-caliber revolver hidden behind a kitchen wall. Forensic analysis determined that the bullets that killed Akonjee and Uddin had been fired from that weapon.


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